Jack Albertson won an Oscar from his only nomination for portraying John Clearly in The Subject Was Roses.
Jack Albertson's win here is rather interesting, because it usually is well praised, but rarely talked about, I would probably attribute that to the film being somewhat difficult to find. His performance here is most certainly not supporting, it is lead, all the main players are leading Martin Sheen as the son, Jack Albertson as the father and Patricia Neal as the mother, not a single one is supporting in the least. The most supporting a characters get are two people they briefly talk to in a night club, and the extras I suppose. Something interesting about it is technically he could have traded places with Ron Moody in Oliver since Albertson is far more a lead in his film, than Moody is in his.
John Clearly is a stern father, who certainly wants things his way, even his way is rather selfish, the fascinating part about the character, and Albertson's performance is that he is not at all simplistic despite how these character can sometimes be portrayed. Albertson really just works well in the role, always acting appropriately stern as if this is something that John, has done and always must do. Albertson perfectly shows his directness and his way of always wanting a certain amount of control over his situation and family. Albertson though does not always show him in this single light and it is amazing how well Albertson shows the depth of this man.
I particularly found it interesting how Albertson perfectly shows the different sides throughout the film, and how he acts differently when he just with his wife at the beginning of the film. Where they immediately bicker about their different ways of dealing with their sons. It is fascinating how both actors in their first scene together clearly show a long history between them, without really even saying all that much about their history. Albertson and Neal simply create the right amount of knowing and distance from each other that works incredibly well. In fact all three of the actors work perfectly together to show them together like a true family. Albertson though is the most complex in this in that John Clearly is the one who tries to hide some of his though and emotions, and tries to be a different person when he is with his son, with his wife or when he is alone.
I like how well Albertson brilliantly shows the way his character's mixed emotions about his son, and wife. It is fascinating the way he seems to love both of them in actuality but has some inherit hatred for them too. Albertson handles the complex nature of a character like this well, he never switches obviously from hating to loving, but rather carefully combines the emotions to create a truly fascinating character. I think his best scenes are when he shows Clearly in his happier moments. I particular think he is truly great in the night club scene. Albertson is just brilliant especially in his brief singing scene. He does so much in these scenes when he talks about his love for his wife, but also tries to hide the fact that he is unfaithful. Then later when he truly desires his wife, but she rejects him, the switch from his love to hate, is truly great acting from Albertson.
Now criticism could be leveled against this performance, that it is too theatrical and loud, but I would disagree. His loudness comes from his attempts to always be strict not from over acting, and Albertson does not over act, and in fact gives a brilliantly subtle performance despite the fact that his character is not a quiet character. Albertson always uses both his voice, and facial expressions to great effect. I though in particular scenes where he listened and did not talk. Especially his first scene where he admires his army jacket, and even stronger his powerful reaction to when his son says he loves him. Albertson is never dull in this performance, or underacting, he never stops telling us more about his character, and I find due to Albertson his performance itself is far more complete than the actual film.